Long Beach’s new Mayor, Rex Richardson, is expected to call for a state of emergency to tackle homelessness during his first state of the city address.
The mayor is hoping the city council will adopt his emergency declaration moments before his address this coming Tuesday.
Frustrated business owners, like Orsa Modica, who owns Modica’s Restaurant and Deli in downtown Long Beach, tell KTLA that the city’s homelessness crisis is at a breaking point.
“I can’t run a business and have people feel safe to come to my business if you have a homeless guy taking a chair and lifting it over his head. This is just a few days ago,” she said. “Would you eat out here? We have a real problem here in Long Beach.”
That’s one of the primary reasons Mayor Richardson is making homelessness a focus of his state of the city address in the coming days.
“We have to roll up our sleeves and tackle the big issues first,” Richardson said. “The declaration of emergency allows us to show up differently on this crisis.”
The mayor said that means restructuring how the city responds, allowing city departments to quickly collaborate when it comes to solving issues around things like temporary housing, mental health and public safety.
“By really bringing an all-hands-on-deck approach and an all-in approach to how we address homelessness, we can be much more efficient and manage the crisis much better,” Richardson said.
Modica said that the city is in crisis mode and that business owners who are worried about losing customers don’t want lip service. They want solutions and empathy for those living on the streets.
Richardson said that the issue is of utmost seriousness and a top priority.
The restaurant owner said that she and some other business owners are feeling cautiously optimistic.
“I’m really excited that they see and they hear us as far as the issues,” Modica said. “We are ready to be part of this movement. I’m hoping that this city address on Tuesday is something that’s powerful, that can make change for the good, not for me only as a business owner, but also for the people that are out there living in the street.”
One report estimates that around 3,200 people are experiencing some form of homelessness in Long Beach, a 62% increase from just two years ago.
Richardson said he knows this approach is not a quick fix, but like Mayor Karen Bass who declared a state of emergency over homelessness in Los Angeles, he hopes it will help the city manage the crisis more effectively and that it will lead to long term solutions.